Baldwin Hitting His Stride

CHAPEL HILL, N.C. – Despite a slow start to his junior season, outfielder Seth Baldwin is emerging as another offense threat in No. 12 North Carolina's batting lineup.

On Tuesday, Baldwin stepped to the plate in the third inning against UNC-Wilmington's Ryan Leach and broke a scoreless tie with a home run to right center field. After the Seahawks tied the score at 2 in the top of the fifth, Baldwin put down a sacrifice to move Tom Zengel to second base in the bottom half of the inning. Zengel scored two batters later to give UNC a lead it would never relinquish.

"It felt pretty good," Baldwin said of his home run. "It felt pretty good after a good weekend at Virginia Tech. Just trying to follow through, and just keep staying with the same plan, and not change anything, have the same mentality every time. Go to bat that's the main thing."

After winning its home-opening series against Seton Hall, North Carolina was 6-1, but Baldwin's start to the season was not as successful. The junior right fielder was batting a lowly .192, but he never paid attention to the numbers, calling them "a bunch of baloney."

"To me I haven't been struggling," Baldwin said. "I mean I've hit the ball hard, and it's gotten caught. I really haven't struck out that much."

Baldwin's right. The Forest City, N.C. native has only struck out 11 times and holds a 1:1 walk-to-strikeout ratio, and his positive approach is paying off. Baldwin has improved since his rough start, and after the Tar Heels' victory over High Point on Wednesday, he now possesses a .274 batting average.

Known for his power, Baldwin was used primarily as a designated hitter his first two years. Now a veteran, he has worked his way into a starting role, and has made a major impact with no errors on his record.

"Defense is probably where I've been the strongest, coming up with big plays," Baldwin said. "I try to take pride in my defense. If you're not hitting that great you might as well play good defense, something you can do all the time."

This workman-type attitude starts in practice with catching ground balls, and working on batting. For a while UNC head coach Mike Fox and his staff sent Baldwin to the bullpen just to stand and watch pitches go by, so he can develop a better recognition for balls and strikes. It appears his diligence is beginning to pay off.

He finished last weekend's series sweep at Virginia Tech going 2-2, recording a RBI and three walks in Sunday's 7-6 win over the Hokies.

"He's got the most power on our team," Fox said. "He had a really good weekend at Virginia Tech. It's all about pitch selection with him. It's good seeing him, his on-base percentage going up a little bit, and he's driving in some more runs for us."

Baldwin's power is a gift. Sometimes a batter like him can be overly anxious, try to crush it or even become hesitant, affecting his ability to discern between a good pitch and a bad one. He is turning the corner, which could not come at a better time as the Tar Heels are about to get into the thick of conference play with a weekend series against rival Duke starting on Friday.

"He's strong as a bull, so he's just got to trust himself a little bit," Fox said. "Right now we're walking more than we're striking out. That 1:1 ratio is really, really good, and that's what Seth needs to focus on. Just moving the ball more, just putting the ball in play, and cutting down on strikeouts. He's done that a lot better this year."

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